Elisabeth Elliot

  • Sept. 9, 2015
  • #8703

Real wisdom is not trying to figure out why God allows suffering, but in trusting Him to bring us closer to Jesus.

Elisabeth Elliot

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a story about Elisabeth Elliot.

As you know, this godly saint of the age passed away earlier this year; Elisabeth was the widow of Jim Elliot, the young missionary who many years ago was speared to death by Auca Indians in the South America jungle. The story made international headlines, and his young wife, Elisabeth, with their little girl, Valerie, remained on the mission field to serve the very people who killed her husband. Elisabeth Elliot’s books have been read by millions; and her no-nonsense approach to problems, as well as her robust and very rigorous faith, has touched the hearts of countless Christians. Me included.

As a young Christian, I gleaned a lot from Elisabeth Elliot as I read her books in the late 60’s, or early 70’s. I first met her in 1976 when we were speaking together at a conference. There we were, after the session, she came back to my hotel room. She was sitting on the edge of my bed, and we were talking about God's purposes in our pain and suffering. I so admired the way she “set her face like flint,” as the Bible says.  She had resolved to trust God no matter what the hardship, and that really spoke to me. Well, after I wrote my second book “A Step Further” back in 1978, just a couple of years later, I asked Elisabeth to read the manuscript and maybe offer an endorsement. After looking it through, she told me she’d be happy to help; however, she did say that my book on suffering was ‘a bit technical.’ At the time, I had no idea what she meant (I was only 28 when I wrote “A Step Further”). I thought it was a well-researched listing of all the many ways God uses suffering to refine our faith and mature our character. That was then…

Years later though, somewhere, oh, maybe in the late 80’s, after struggles in my new marriage with Ken, and other disappointments, not to mention the beginning of my journey with chronic pain, more years of quadriplegia, I finally understood what Elisabeth meant.  When it comes to suffering, a dry, technical list of the 16 good biblical reasons as to why God allows awful things to happen and how you can benefit from it that mechanical listing just doesn’t do it. Because understanding suffering – I mean deep suffering – has nothing to do with being able to figure out God's plan and purpose for it all. No, real wisdom in suffering is trusting God even when – and especially when – you can’t figure Him out. Real wisdom is not the ability to list all the ‘whys and wherefores’ about God's reasons for allowing bad things to happen. No, we don’t learn about suffering by memorizing points A,B,C, and D detailing the many benefits of going through hard times. The real wisdom, the real benefit, the actual purpose and plan behind hard suffering is that through it we are more closely united with Jesus; we understand Jesus and the pain he suffered; we’re drawn closer to Jesus. That’s it. It’s really all about Him – I believe that’s what Elisabeth Elliott was trying to say to me. We learn about suffering when we, much like Jacob, grapple with the Angel of the Lord until He touches you in the deepest recesses of your hearts.  

I had a chance to talk about that when I spoke at the memorial service for Elisabeth Elliott earlier this year – she was a woman who knew much, much grief and suffering. And I’ll tell you one thing, she knew (she really knew) Jesus, her Savior.  And when it comes to your suffering? Well, I hope it’ll lead you to a closer walk with Him, as well. God bless you for doing that and thank you for listening.

© Joni and Friends


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